A Year After Breonna Taylor Grand Jury Decision, Where Do Related Cases Stand?
One year ago, a Louisville grand jury indicted former Louisville Metro Police detective Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment, a Class D felony.
Although the shooting happened during a middle-of-the night raid on Breonna Taylor’s home, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office only recommended charges for bullets fired into a neighboring apartment. Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed during the LMPD raid on March 13, 2020.
Hankison was one of three officers who fired dozens of times that night. Former Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and former detective Myles Cosgrove also shot into Taylor’s apartment. Some of their bullets struck her, and she died in her hallway.
Her killing prompted major protests in Louisville and demonstrators across the world chanted her name along with those of other victims of police violence in a mass call for racial justice that defined 2020.
Only Hankison was criminally charged. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
His indictment, which Taylor’s family and their supporters saw as an insufficient resolution to months of investigation, sparked fresh protests in Louisville, though they quieted down before long. Demonstrators said the decision evoked anger and grief.
But Hankison’s case isn’t the only consequence stemming from the police’s fatal shooting of Taylor. Here’s a look at other related cases and where they stand today.
Last September, Hankison pleaded not guilty in Jefferson County Circuit Court, and Judge Ann Bailey Smith ordered him not to possess any firearms. His lawyer, Stew Mathews of Cincinnati, unsuccessfully lobbied Smith to reconsider, saying Hankison had received multiple threats.
The case against Hankison has since crept forward. He was expected to stand trial in front of a jury in August, but the trial was moved to February 2022. While the reason for the delay is unclear, Mathews said the COVID-19 pandemic likely played a part in the decision.
After the indictment, Hankison was booked into the Shelby County Detention Center, and released on bond about half an hour later.
On Thursday, Smith granted Hankison a bond reduction, from $15,000 to $7,500. Hankison had already paid the bond in full, meaning he’ll get a $7,500 refund. Mathews had argued his client is struggling to meet his monthly bills because he hasn’t been able to get a job after he was formally fired from LMPD in June 2020.
“The purpose of bond is to assure that the defendant is going to show up when and where he’s supposed to,” Mathews recently told WFPL News. “He’s done that and lived up to all of the conditions that were put upon him when the bond was set, so I’m asking the court to give him his money back.”
It’s unclear whether Hankison will ultimately face trial in Jefferson County.
Mathews filed a motion for a change of venue in February, arguing Hankison cannot get a fair and impartial trial in Louisville because of the “avalanche of publicity, locally, nationally and worldwide” and “the media circus that surrounds this case.”
In court filings, he argued negative billboards and last year’s racial justice protests in Louisville are “likely to taint prospective jurors.”
Lawyers for the state pushed back on Mathews’ narrative, arguing that much of the negative media coverage did not focus on Hankison alone.
The judge has so far denied the change of venue request, but Mathews could potentially make another motion after jury selection in February. Mathews said he hasn’t decided if he’ll try again.
If Smith agrees to a venue change, the jury trial would take place in a county bordering Jefferson County or “the most convenient county in which a fair trial can be had,” according to state law.
Hankison was the first officer fired by LMPD for his role in the Taylor killing. The department subsequently terminated Joshua Jaynes and Myles Cosgrove, both detectives, in January.
All three appealed their firing to the LMPD Police Merit Board, a five-member body appointed by Louisville’s mayor. Two patrol officers, elected by members of the LMPD police union, also serve on the merit board for cases involving officer discipline.
Hankison’s appeal won’t be considered until after his criminal trial, but Jaynes’ appeal was heard over three days in June. The board ultimately upheld his firing.
Investigators with LMPD’s Professional Standards Unit, which considers policy violations, conducted an internal investigation following the raid on Taylor’s apartment. They found Jaynes was “untruthful” when he asked the court to approve the search warrant for Taylor’s apartment.
In an affidavit attached to the warrant application, Jaynes wrote that he “verified through a U.S. Postal Inspector” that Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, suspected drug dealer Jamarcus Glover, received packages at her home, which turned out to be untrue. Jaynes based his statement on the incorrect statements of another officer, Jonathan Mattingly, who retired from LMPD in June.
Arguments during the hearing centered almost entirely on that single phrase.
Brendan Daugherty, an assistant county attorney representing LMPD, argued the former detective violated two internal policies: Jaynes failed to fill out a required form, and he lied when he said he verified information with a U.S. Postal Inspector.
“Jaynes represented in his affidavit for the search warrant that he took a very specific action and had a very specific source of information,” Daugherty said during the hearing. “But he had never taken that specific action and he did not have that specific source of information. And he knew it.”
Multiple witnesses took the stand, including Jaynes, who made an emotional appeal to the board on the final day of the proceedings.
“I had no reason to lie in this case,” he said. “I’m here because I relied on information from another officer.”
Attorney Thomas Clay, who represents Jaynes, appealed the Police Merit Board’s decision to uphold his firing to Jefferson Circuit Court last week. He said he plans to make similar arguments to the ones he made before the merit board and will be “quoting extensively from the testimony.”
In a recent interview, Clay said Jaynes didn’t know the information he was provided was inaccurate until April 2020, weeks after the deadly raid.
“So how the hell is he supposed to go back and un-serve the search warrant?” Clay said.
Clay also maintains that what Jaynes wrote was proper under the law due to a legal principle known as the ‘collective knowledge doctrine,’ which allows officers to act on the knowledge of another officer when making a stop, search or arrest.
Cosgrove’s termination appeal is tentatively scheduled for a multi-day hearing starting November 9, according to merit board attorney Mark Dobbins. Ballistics reports showed Cosgrove’s bullets struck Taylor. Then-interim police chief Yvette Gentry fired him for use of force and body camera procedure violations.
In July, a lawyer representing Taylor’s family questioned whether the Louisville Metro Police Department withheld body camera footage from the night of her killing.
Sam Aguiar requested the agency release “audit trails” of any body cam footage from the raid on March 12 and 13, 2020. According to the lawsuit, the trails would include information about the devices, persons wearing them and those with access to the footage. LMPD provided the documents and later fulfilled Aguiar’s request for the footage itself. Aguiar did not respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit is still active, but has since shifted focus to obtaining redacted information from the materials the police department handed over. LMPD defended its omissions as valid under a Kentucky open records law exemption aimed at preserving people’s privacy.
Lawyers for LMPD wrote in court documents they blurred aspects of videos and redacted audio to obscure the identities of people who were not charged with criminal offenses.
In a separate lawsuit, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who was with her the night of the shooting, is seeking monetary damages for alleged police misconduct. Last year, he sued the city, 15 LMPD officers and anyone who took part in the events leading up to his arrest in March 2020.
Mattingly, the LMPD sergeant allegedly shot by Walker during the raid, filed a suit countering Walker’s last October. It alleged physical assault and emotional distress. His attorney, Kent Wicker, declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
Steve Romines, Walker’s lawyer, said the cases are still in discovery. That’s a step in the legal process that allows all involved parties to gather facts about the case, including through records requests and depositions.
“The defendants are filing quite a few motions to prevent discovery,” Romines said. “Judges ruled in our favor but they’re appealing those rulings — really just delaying matters.”
Romines said the information he requested includes officers’ personal cell phone records. He said once discovery is complete, the parties will work to set a trial date.
Walker’s lawsuit is also asking the state for immunity from prosecution. He’s claiming protection under a law that permits the use of deadly force in the face of imminent harm. Romines has said Mattingly’s countersuit would be moot if the court rules in Walker’s favor.
He was originally charged with attempted murder of a police officer for the bullet that struck Mattingly. The Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney dropped the charges against Walker and a later Circuit Court ruling ensured Walker wouldn’t face any further charges relating to his actions that night.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced in April an investigation into LMPD and whether the department’s use of excessive force is part of a “pattern or practice”, or violates constitutional rights.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s office is leading the investigation alongside the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky. It outlines an audit of LMPD policies, training and systems of accountability, including how the department records and investigates misconduct complaints.
As part of the investigation, the DOJ is reaching out to community groups and the public to learn about their experiences with LMPD.
The FBI’s Louisville field office has been independently investigating Taylor’s killing since May, 2020. FBI Louisville spokesperson Tim Beam said the federal agency has been consulting with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division about the investigation’s findings.
“FBI Louisville has made significant progress in the investigation since it was initiated in May 2020 and will continue to work diligently until this matter is concluded,” Beam said in an email. “The COVID pandemic has presented several unexpected obstacles, including the limited use of the federal grand jury.”
The DOJ did not return requests for comment.
Amina Elahi contributed to this report.
This story has been updated to include details about the bond reduction granted to Brett Hankison on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021.